NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident the league will restart the season at the end of July despite growing concerns from a faction of players, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Silver made his comments during ESPN’s special “Return To Sports” broadcast on Monday evening.
Silver is sensitive and sympathetic to the feeling of some players that the resumption of play could take the focus off social justice reforms. A player coalition led by Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers guard Avery Bradley is pursuing a further examination of the league’s plan to restart the season in Orlando.
That group has also raised concerns regarding an increase in positive coronavirus cases in Florida; the restrictive environment in the Orlando Disney bubble, insurance for players regarding potential illnesses; and the risk of injuries during an accelerated finish.
“Listen, it’s not an ideal situation,” Silver said. “We are trying to find a way to our own normalcy in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of essentially a recession or worse with 40 million unemployed, and now with enormous social unrest in the country. And so as we work through these issues, I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them … it may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere.”
Silver believes the league could heighten awareness and get the social justice message across effectively while getting back in action. It would also be a major financial boost for all parties involved.
“In terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to the issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando if we’re able to pull this off. … I think part of it’s going to require a fair amount of listening, something we’ve been doing already,” he said. “But then engaging in very deliberate behavior, together with the players, in terms of how can we use our larger platform, the NBA together with the players, really to effect change.”
Concerns regarding the coronavirus itself and those at greatest risk are also being addressed. The league has sent teams a medical history questionnaire for players, coaches and their traveling party to fill out, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Medical professionals will use that information to determine if members can fully participate in the restart, be restricted from certain activities, or be excused due to pre-existing conditions.